QUESTION: Our parish traditionally hosts a Nativity play featuring first or second graders playing the parts of the Holy Family, angels, innkeepers, and animals in the stable. Parents and parishioners are invited, and it’s a wonderful event. On the day of the event, as parents bring their young children to participate in the Nativity, they gather and wait in their seats for up to 30 minutes or an hour before the play. That time span before the program seems to have great potential for evangelization and/or catechesis. How might we best use that time with these parents and adults? —KATHY B.
Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP, responds …
A wonderful approach! Using every opportunity is key to walking with adults on their faith journey.
First, begin by helping them think about their experience and all the good they are already doing as “catechists” for their children. Invite them to talk in groups of three about questions, such as: How did you learn about the story of Christmas when you were a child, especially in your family? What have you done in the past few years to help your children/ family celebrate and remember the meaning of Christmas?
Second, all adults respond to the practical—the linking of faith with everyday life. Use this time to share with them various home ideas for this time of the year: ideas for prayer and ritual in their families (e.g. blessing of the Christmas tree, celebration of the feast of the Holy Family, blessing of homes on Epiphany).
Suggest questions they might want to talk about in the days ahead. A few ideas:
✱ How have we spent time together as a family during past Advents and past Christmases?
✱ Did we have enough time? Did we feel rushed, harried? Did anyone feel left out?
✱ What could we do for each other that would be a gift of ourselves?
✱ How can our Advent/Christmas be more people-centered than thing-centered?
- Invite them to consider the 12 days of Christmas rather than Christmas being over on the night of December 25. Make suggestions for giving such as offering a gift a day— not the big expensive kind—but some small gift for each family member as you gather around the tree each evening.
- Another possibility would be to make a short video (or use a real-time process with several people leading it) entitled: “Did You Know?” Share some facts about the Nativity story, then pose a question they can share in small groups. For instance: The story of the wise men is told only in Matthew’s Gospel. Scripture scholars have reflected on the many meanings of this passage. Why do you like this story? What message does it have for you?
- Play a dictionary game with the parents. Explore words that they hear during the Advent/Christmas season: incarnation, Emmanuel, hope, prophets, Epiphany, etc. Suggest questions for them to talk about why these words have meaning for their lives.
Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP, is involved in catechetical and adult faith formation, consultation, writing, workshops, days of reflection and retreats, and teaching. Find more at JanetSchaeffler.com.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, Nov/Dec 2016.
Image credit: George Martell / Bayard Inc.